Cauliflower, Citizen Kane, and Chick Lit
I’m still not a huge vegetable fan, but I have expanded my horizons. I love certain spinach dishes, asparagus, leeks, and anything with onions, tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms. Recently I’ve learned to love roasted cauliflower with a little hot-pepper sauce sprinkled over it. Yummy.
So what does this have to do with books and film? Recently there has been some controversy on the blogosphere over two NYTs film critics’ statement that certain films are “vegetables” – valuable not so much as entertainment but as something to appreciate. What’s controversial about that? Well, certain people took offense, saying that these artistic, high brow films are entertaining and enriching. The two, they say, don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
I teach film studies, so I’m not unfamiliar with this concept. Every year when we start our unit on Citizen Kane, my students are aghast at the idea that it is considered to be the best movie ever made. “Do you think it’s the best movie ever made?” they’ll ask me.
I tell them, “I think it’s hard to label one film as being the best ever made. Do I go home on Friday nights and watch it while eating ice cream? No. Do I think it has influenced film-making in hugely substantial ways? Yes. All I hope is that by watching it, you can appreciate what it has to offer.”
There’s that word again…appreciate. I’ve learned more from watching Citizen Kane then say, Mystic Pizza, but I’m always pleased to happen upon Mystic Pizza when I’m channel flipping. I guess for me the vegetable metaphor holds true. Vegetables are nutritious yet hard to enjoy at first. But once you acquire a taste for them, you love them. Sort of like me with roasted cauliflower.
So while I don’t think enjoyment and appreciation have to be mutually exclusive, I do think they’re often separate experiences. But not always…it’s all about variety. For instance, if you’ve been on the road and have ingested a lot of fast food, don’t you start craving salad? Similarly, if you all you’ve watched in the last month are romances, don’t you feel more ready to try an art house flick? Sometimes what you appreciate can be entertaining, what you crave can be nutritious, and what desire can be exactly what you need.
This leads me to another thought. There are lots of real quality romances out there, and there are also some very poorly done art house flicks. There are also salads covered with dressing and bacon that are unhealthy and lean cuts of beef that are both delicious and good for you. But people seem to have trouble with this concept. For instance, when I’ve gotten good reviews for my books (which I always appreciate, no matter what), people are likely to say “It’s not your typical chick lit”, or “I don’t usually read chick lit, but this was really good.”
The implication of course is that chick lit is inherently bad. As a writer of chick lit I don’t agree with that. I think you can find things to both appreciate and enjoy about pretty much any well written book, well made movie, or well prepared meal, no matter what its genre, subject, or ingredients.
So there you go. Prepare yourself some cauliflower and steak, turn on the TV or open a book, and enjoy your day.
And after you’ve eaten all your vegetables, don’t forget dessert.